Negosentro | Steps forward in Women’s Rights | Did you know that only 50 years ago, women had less than half of the legal rights of men? Good news is that that percentage today is raised to about 75-80% depending on the country, so we are moving in the right direction, even though still being far from complete equality. Since the early 20th century, women’s rights have changed for the better, and right now, we have more women than ever before being present in the labor force and enjoying leadership positions. Also, women around the world are getting better education and healthcare. While the change for the better is obvious, where exactly can we see the change? Here are just some of the examples where women’s rights made the biggest strides.
During the turn of the 19th to 20th century, people began to push for the women’s right to vote. New Zealand in 1893 became the first country to allow women to vote on a national level, but this movement soon spread, and thanks to a fiery fight from Suffragettes and allies all over the world, today, women’s right to vote is protected under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979).
However, some places in the world still make it complicated for women to exercise their civil right. For example, women of Syria have been cut off from political life completely, even from the ongoing peace process. In Pakistan, women are prohibited to vote in some places due to strong patriarchal local customs. And in Afghanistan, authorities chose to introduce mandatory photo screenings at polling stations which makes it impossible for women who cover their faces to vote. Hopefully, human and women’s rights societies will be able to make a change in this department and allow women all over the world to have a say in their future.
Sexual and reproductive rights
Your body is your body, and that should be a universal rule all over the world. Every woman on this planet deserves to have full sexual and reproductive rights that include equal access to health services, access to contraception, safe abortion, the right to marry who they want, have children if they want, when they want and with whom they want, and protection from unwanted sexual acts.
No woman should live with the fear of gender-based violence such as rape, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, forced abortion or forced sterilization. Also, lucky for women living in the US, Roe v. Wade case happened in 1973, and it provided women with legal abortion until the fifth month of gestation. Similar laws were adopted in other countries and women didn’t have to rely on willing nurses and doctors anymore or go to another country to obtain an abortion.
Unfortunately, we have a long battle to fight until all women in the world can be protected by sexual and reproductive rights. Many women and girls are unable to access safe and legal abortion and are forced to choose between a professional abortion and jail time or an amateur abortion and possible life-threatening health complications.
Domestic violence protection
It sounds unbelievable that many acts like the Violence Against Women Act were brought less than 30 years ago! This law (and similar ones in countries outside the States) provides help for rape and domestic violence victims and supplies them with police and court officials trained for such cases. Also, women have the right to seek legal protection and defense in gender-related cases, domestic violence and family violence cases. Thanks to these laws, women in western societies like North America, Europe and Australia can seek legal protection. For instance, Australian women can hire experienced criminal lawyers in Sydney who deal in domestic violence, sex offences, murder and assault, and seek their legal advice. With such assistance, women can expect justice to be served. But, in many places around the world, domestic violence is not seen as a crime and the rape of a wife by her husband is not punishable by law.
Sexual harassment ruling
Sexual harassment in the workplace was not even recognized 50 years ago (the term was officially defined 40 years ago by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Before this act, women who worked had to live through sexual harassment every day without any legal means to escape it. The situation today is much better, but we can still hear about cases of sexual harassment in the workplace daily.
In many parts of the world (western society included) married women were not considered to be legal persons, but the property of their husbands. Basically, women stopped existing in a legal sense. Unmarried women, on the other hand, were considered legal persons who needed to be supervised, usually by the father. Today, we moved away from this old rule, and women can own real estate, businesses, cars and other property without supervision or permission from males in their lives.
Before the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, women in the U.S. needed to have a man to co-sign their application, no matter if it came to mortgages, credits or loans. Additionally, these loan applications often contained personal questions about marriage, pregnancy and birth control, which could later be used against them. Today, millions of women around the world get loans for their businesses, investments and other property without anyone’s permission or unprofessional questions.
Just 30 years ago, women only had a few job positions available (teacher, secretary, nurse, maid, cook, hairstylist and such). Why? Well, men thought that women were not capable of performing jobs with more responsibility or management requirements. But even with job equality acts, women still fill only a small portion of leadership positions, even though many people think more gender-balanced management is what we need as a society.
Today, we’ve come a long way as a society. According to research, over 80% of the British public supports equality for women, and similar results can be found all over the world. Thanks to brave women and allies who took the first steps to challenge the male status quo more than 100 years ago, we can all live in a safer, happier and more equal and balanced world.